The countdown is on, November 5 here we come!

The big night is nearly upon us and soon the cold night sky will be lit up by spectacular fireworks of all colours, shapes and sizes.

Fireworks show on Independent DayIt’s a family occasion full of whizz-bangs and excitement that keeps everyone entertained, and while many of you will be attending an organised firework display, there will be others who will be holding their own at home. This is why it is a smart move to brush up on the Firework Code – essential reading for adults who are going to be handling fireworks.

Planning a firework display should not be rushed. There’s a lot to consider both before and after the fireworks have been set off! Ask yourself, is your garden big enough for the fireworks you are buying and seriously consider if your garden can cope with having a bonfire? Lighting it too close to a fence or shed could spell disaster. Do you have a safety plan in place in the event of an emergency? Have you set up an appropriate cordon? Young people should watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance and follow the safety rules for using sparklers. Remember, sparklers should not be given to children under five-years-old. All fireworks are explosives which have the potential to cause injury and damage if they are misused. This is why adults should help children and young people understand the dangers and share the important message that fireworks are not toys or missiles.

Each year, RoSPA hears about people being injured by fireworks and the traumatic experiences victims have gone through, including lifelong scarring and years of treatment. This is why it’s important that families ensure that fireworks are handled only by adults and treated with respect.

About half of these injuries happen at family or private parties and about a quarter in the street or other public place. A much smaller proportion – around 10 per cent – of the injuries happen at large public displays. Strictly speaking, attending an organised firework display is the safest option.

A rogue firework exploded from inside Ben's jacket, setting his shirt on fire in the process. Ben has since undergone seven skin grafts and is continuing to receive steroid injections to help stretch and soften the skin.

A rogue firework exploded from inside Ben’s jacket, setting his shirt on fire in the process. Ben has since undergone seven skin grafts and is continuing to receive steroid injections to help stretch and soften the skin.

Amy McCabe, whose son Ben was injured at a street firework display, has called on the public to choose the safer option of attending an organised display. Ben was four-years-old when he was left with permanent scarring after he was hit by a firework at the display held in a residential cul-de-sac in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow.

The rogue firework exploded from inside his jacket, setting his shirt on fire in the process. The firework, which had fallen over in the wet grass after being lit, flew off into the crowd at such speed, that initially spectators were none the wiser. It was not until Ben started screaming in pain that people realised he had been hit. Despite Ben’s jacket being zipped up to his chin moments earlier, the firework had somehow found its way inside. Surgeons told Ben’s mother Amy, 37, that her son would be scarred for life after suffering third degree burns to his chest, neck, under his right arm and behind his left ear. Ben who is now six-years-old has since undergone seven skin grafts and is continuing to receive steroid injections to help stretch and soften the skin.

Data collected across Britain in previous years shows that, on average, around 1,000 people visit A&E for treatment of a firework-related injury in the four weeks around Bonfire Night, with half of the injuries being suffered by under-18s. The minimum age for buying fireworks is 18 across the UK. Only buy fireworks from a reputable retailer and ensure the packaging carries the ‘CE’ mark or is marked with ‘BS 7114’.

RoSPA’s fireworks website – www.saferfireworks.com – provides details on UK law, tips for setting up a display and the Firework Code:

  • Plan your fireworks display to make it safe and enjoyable
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
  • Light the firework at arm’s length with a taper and stand well back
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit
  • Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
  • Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

Have a wonderful time and wrap up warm! I hear it might be a chilly one!

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

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